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Astonishing X-Men (2017) #1 [Review]

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001Life of X – Part One

Writer: Charles Soule
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego, Walden Wong
Colors: Richard Isanove, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Jim Cheung & Richard Isanove
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen, Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editor: Christina Harrington
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: September 2017
Cover Price: $4.99

I was a sucker. I’d seen a poster-image of this issue’s cover, and I vaguely recall the image grabbing me initially when it was first debuted with solicitation or shortly after. Archangel has always been a striking figure for me, and despite the last ten or so years, Bishop (especially looking as he does here) rings quite nostalgic for me. Then there’s Rogue, and while I don’t much care for the “Old Man” version, seeing ‘a Wolverine figure’ here drove it home. But in addition to that, there’s something about the blending of the coloring–the rich orangey-yellow background and the yellow and blue of the logo…and that the logo may not be the “classic” X-MEN logo, but it has a certain blend of the old and new while being its own thing…and NOT coming off as “pretentious” (as if text CAN be pretentious) to me.

I was ALSO a sucker because a local comic shop had sent out an email informing us that any Marvel purchase would get a free “cosmic cube,” and while I am actively disinterested in the current comics Event, I’m a sucker for plastic comic artifacts (such as Lantern Corps Rings), and the Cosmic Cube goes way back. And with Astonishing X-Men #1 being out this week and already having the against-my-better-judgment interest, I figured hey…fine. I tried X-Men: Gold #1 and X-Men: Blue #1, so I could give Astonishing X-Men #1 a go. Especially at $3.99.

After I’d bought the issue (amidst my other purchases), and gotten it home AND read it…THEN I realized that no…this was NOT a $3.99 issue. It was $4.99…so for that, I’m not a happy camper. But where even comic shops are lucky to return comics, it’s not like I can “return” the issue, so I’m sorta stuck with it, whatever “principle” I want to take with it.

I’m not happy that my inattention to detail had me ignorantly buying yet another $5 #1 issue from Marvel (in an industry when other publishers proved $10 vol. 1 collected editions with 5-6 issues).

Buuuuuut…

I enjoyed this issue.

I actually did!

We open on a quick scene, learning that mutant psychics all over the world are dying. Then we come to Betsy Braddock–Psylocke–who is one of the STRONGEST mutant psychics, and the force that’s killing the others isn’t able to subdue her until after she’s sent out a psychic cry for help. We’re also (re) introduced to Bishop; to Angel/Archangel, Gambit and Fantomex, Old Man Logan and Rogue; four of whom are on the receiving end of Psylocke’s cry for help; which draws them all in to her location. The force that’s been attacking the psychics is concentrated, and no longer constrained to just the local psychics. As the group converges, they must face the psychic energy-outlash while saving civilians and surviving themselves. Working together, the immediate, outward threat is resolved…but Betsy reveals that she now knows who is behind it–and that things are worse than even this was. Some of the group must go to the Astral Plane to stop the Shadow King. No time to seek shelter or plan–she sends them immediately, with Angel and Bishop remaining behind to protect them all. Meanwhile, we confirm that yes indeed, this is definitely Shadow King. And he’s got quite a secret…which provides a major “hook” for me regarding subsequent issues of this series!

While I was incredibly skeptical of X-Men Prime, X-Men Blue, and X-Men Gold, I bought the one-shot and #1s to “try,” to go against my anti-Marvel negativity and give the things “a shot,” an ISSUE, at least. And that way I could at least judge for myself how things seemed, and feel like I had more room to criticize–at least I’d have bought the big, over-priced first-issues, and have SOME hands-on “experience,” not just second-hand stuff.

And so, too, I figured for this. $4.99 is too much for a single issue, for a first issue. MAYBE for an Annual, or an oversized special/one-shot. But a $5+ issue should be rare and special…not plentiful as water. Marvel has abused the price point to where I virtually NEVER even bother to look at their comics, because I just KNOW they’re basically the most ridiculously-priced premium-priced things in the market. Real or perception, but that’s where I am.

But I’ve got the issue, I read it, and I actually enjoyed it. We have some prologue. We have character introductions. We have an immediate threat, and we see a group of disparate mutant figures come together, face the threat, and emerge victorious. We then have the setup for an even bigger threat–the one that carries beyond “just” this issue…and it looks to involve other nostalgic elements that work organically with the Shadow King character, as well as perhaps grabbing onto continuity and yanking on a loose thread, in preparation of some re-stitching and mending.

The story is engaging and keeps stuff moving; I can and will allow any “inconsistencies of character” to be credited to the last decade or more of mutant comics and lack of continuity and the apparent attempt here to play with the existing status quo. Visually, I dug this issue. Everyone’s recognizable and I like the visuals; there’s a sense of modernity with the aforementioned nostalgia; new and old, simply making this a good-looking comic. The multiple inkers do not take away from that–I only even know there were multiple inkers due to seeing the credits.

I don’t want to like any Marvel series right now. The X-Men are old favorites, and I’ve felt largely let-down by everything that’s been done with, to, and involving them for years, such that many of them are hardly recognizable to me anymore. I do not TRUST Marvel to not “yank the rug out” from under me, or some sorta bait-and-switch with this. I’ve already seen one or two of the other X-titles tie in to a major crossover event…and I want nothing to do with that, either. So…I might come back for the next issue of this arc, or at least check it out if I notice it on the rack. I am honestly very interested in what this particular story arc holds, and if I’m gonna pay Marvel‘s too-high inflated/”premium” price point, I can justify it a bit easier in smaller doses as single issues than collected volumes.

I actually don’t feel I can really speak to whether old fans or new fans or both would care or not care about this issue…I’m a weird creature when i comes to Marvel, and the X-Men. Suffice it to say that even at that $5 price point and $3.99 otherwise with possible bi-weekly shipping, I’m hooked here where even the likes of Blue and Gold didn’t grab me at this level. That makes this a definite “light in the darkness” of X-Books, and if you can stomach the $4.99 price point, this is about as good an issue for that as any that Marvel‘s put out of late!

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001_blogtrailer

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Infinity #1 [Review]

infinity001Infinity

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales with John Livesay, David Meikis and Jim Cheung
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterers: Chris Eliopoulos with Joe Caramagna
Cover: Adam Kubert & Laura Martin
Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas
Editors: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

I wasn’t going to buy this issue. I physically picked it up from the shelf last Wednesday, and then put it back. It’s a $4.99 issue, which is $1 more than “usual” for most Marvel fare these days (though to its credit it’s a thicker than usual issue, even factoring out full-page “chapter headings”). But Thanos’ face is featured prominently on the cover (it IS the cover image, really!), and darned if I’m not a fan of classic Marvel Cosmic Thanos stuff! So despite other online chatter, I decided to go ahead and buy this Friday after all, in the interest of giving it a fair chance.

On the whole, I’d have to say that it was a passively neutral read for me. I did not particularly enjoy it…but I did not actively dislike it the way I’d somewhat expected to.

We see a world apparently destroyed by Avengers…then move to Titan, to a creature whose existence seems to be solely its mission–Thanos’ bidding. With the success of one mission, it is now sent to Earth after other secrets. Various events unfold–Space Knights face an unwinnable situation, SWORD and Captain America and Hawkeye bust a group of Skrulls hiding out, and we see the current status quo of the Inhumans and their King, Blackbolt. The spy creature delivers a message, and we get a hint of Thanos’ plan.

After not enjoying SHIELD #1 a few years ago, not being able to “get into” his early Fantastic Four issues, and being completely turned off to his Marvel Now Avengers and New Avengers launches, I’ve pretty much decided Hickman‘s work in general just is not for me. As such, his name attached to Infinity was a big red flag…one that somewhat holds true even now, having read this issue.

Despite Thanos’ face on the cover, he may as well not even actually appear in the issue for the near-zero on-panel time he gets. For that alone I’m disappointed with the issue. Additionally, there are plenty of characters that I’m not familiar with that I get the feeling I “should” be to truly “appreciate” this issue/story.

Visually I definitely enjoyed the art overall…I’m not a huge fan of some of the costumes (specifically Captain America and Hawkeye) but they look about as good as I can expect here, leaving me only to dislike the costumes themselves rather than the depiction. As for the many characters I’m not familiar with, I suppose the visuals don’t do them any disservice…they look how they do, and I’m cool with that.

The title Infinity–and featuring Thanos’ face on the first issue and other marketing as well as the Free Comic Book Day issue–seem clearly chosen to draw association with past Thanos-centric stories like The Infinity Gauntlet or Infinity Abyss. As such, the comparison is there, and as a first issue, this does not do for me here what those did in their respective stories. Plus, about 10 pages of this issue are what we were given in that FCBD issue, so that wasn’t even a prologue so much as “just” some random scene over 3 months before the arrival of #1.

While I imagine things will pull together and make sense by the end of the six individual issues of this “main story”/mini…as a single issue, Infinity #1 leaves me let-down. If I come across positive enough reviews of the later issues and/or tie-ins, I’ll likely be interest in a collected volume of the entire story; but as it stands, I don’t plan on picking up any of the subsequent single issues for this event/story.

Infinity FCBD 2013 [Review]

infinityfcbd2013Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas
Editors: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $0.00

Given my history with Thanos, Adam Warlock, the Infinity Gauntlet (and the Infinity Gems’ involvement in the Ultraverse)…even though I REALLY don’t want to get sucked into another Marvel Event, I wasn’t about to ignore the Infinity issue Marvel‘s got out as one of the Free Comic Book Day 2013 offerings.

The cover has a rather iconic look about it, a shattered pane falling away to reveal Thanos’ grin behind it–and images of a bunch of characters from around the Marvel Universe looking rather disconcerted.

The story is fairly simple, as we’re introduced to some aliens, including one whose latest mission was a success. The alien is given another task, which it sets about accomplishing quickly. A “tribute” is extracted from another alien people–who are but thousands where they were once millions. This tribute is presented to Thanos. And on Earth, we learn that tribute will be demanded there as well, or the world will burn.

This issue certainly serves its purpose–to be a “teaser” of sorts, something within the main story of Infinity yet probably not absolutely essential to understanding the story. This reeks of “prologue,” and other than seeing Thanos, I was honestly not very interested here. I don’t consciously know anything of any of these aliens or their worlds. I’ve yet to get through all of Annihilation, Conquest, or the Thanos Imperative, so other than tidbids of spoilery stuff, I’m not really current with Thanos…but this issue doesn’t hold up, considering I’d expect from the cover to either have more of Thanos himself, or of the general Marvel Universe presented.

The issue also reprints a Thanos backup story from Logan’s Run #6 in which Thanos once more survives the wrath of Drax the Destroyer. This was more to my liking, in that at least the focus was on Thanos, not a bunch of characters I didn’t know. Also, I’d never read this particular Thanos story, so it was still new material to me.

The art of the main story is pretty good, and quite to my liking. Thing is, I’m more interested in a story that I enjoy than I am pretty pictures, so it doesn’t make up for the lackluster story snippet. Meanwhile, the art from the Logan’s Run backup at least looks like classic Thanos, and while not entirely to my liking, is easily forgiven as a product of its time.

All in all…I’m not at all impressed with this “preview” or “prologue” or whatever-the-heck-it-is for Infinity. However, as a free issue, this is certainly worth it, if only for the reprint of the classic Thanos story.

Avengers vs. X-Men #11 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

Avengers vs. X-Men #3 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Avengers vs. X-Men #2 [Review]

Round 2

Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Art: Jim Cheung and Laura Martin
Assistant Editor: John Denning
Associate Editor: Lauren Sankovitch
Consulting Editor: Nick Lowe
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Published by: Marvel Comics

The battle breaks out here, as the Avengers attempt to take the beach while the X-Men seek to shove ’em back out to sea. The issue is primarily a big brawl, a long fight-scene, with snippets of stuff sure to be expanded on in the Vs. mini-series and/or tie-in issues. While the two groups duke it out, Cyclops is focused on seeing Hope to safety, while she wants to be in the thick of things, fighting rather than being fought over. By issue’s end, we see the toll the fighting’s already extracted from everyone–and possibly what’s to come as it’s pushed Hope to new levels, and Cap’s “away team” in space finds shock and awe in the approaching Phoenix force.

Story-wise…I’m not too impressed here. There’s more fighting than anything else (at least when taken for face value–there’s more depth than there looks, despite my summary above). It’s definitely interesting seeing some of the match-ups…and the Captain America/Cyclops slugfest made me think perhaps the cover of Avengers #25 is the REAL tie-in of that issue, as I’d swear that cover was yanked right out of this issue. Definitely liked the Iron Man/Magneto match-up…the narrative boxes surrounding that initial fight worked extremely well for me in summing up both characters’ strengths and natural bents.

Visually, little to complain about. The issue was action-packed enough that I honestly did not notice any of the AR logos except on the cover, so I’m even LESS impressed here than I was with ’em on the first issue. Romita‘s art isn’t my favorite, but a darned sight better in my eyes than a number of other artists, and I liked the work in this issue in general.

On the whole, this is another solid issue that moves things in the overall story forward–the battle is joined (not teased and put off til mid-arc), we see further development of things with Hope and the role she seems to be destined to play, and there’s enough to the individual fights that while they can clearly be expanded, it’s not just a panel here, panel there, go read another issue for the actual battle.

And as with the first issue, this issue does leave me looking forward to the next issue. Though I may not feel this way in the end or if I think too hard about the price tag…on the whole I kinda like that this is biweekly. 12 is a large number of “core event title” issues, but biweekly this should be over by early Fall…quite a bit crammed into half a year.

Recommended.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 8/10

Avengers vs. X-Men #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

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